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Title: Reliable and resilient surface water management through rapid scenario screening
Author: Webber, J.
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2019
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Surface water flooding causes significant damage, disruption and loss of life in cities, both in the UK and globally. These impacts have historically been managed through application of conventional urban drainage systems designed to meet specified design standards. Conventional strategies have performed well in the past, but are becoming increasingly unfit for purpose due to intensifying hazards caused by several emerging challenges, including climate change, urban growth and aging drainage infrastructure. In response, an extensive range of alternative novel interventions has been developed. These have been successfully applied across many case studies and their performance to meet design standards on specific sites is now well understood. However, application is still limited and challenges exist regarding how to maximise performance at the urban catchment scale and incorporate resilience to extreme rainfall events within design. This thesis addresses these challenges through evaluating intervention performance using a rapid scenario screening framework. This framework delivers insight into the complex permutations of intervention strategies at a catchment scale through evaluating alternatives, scales, spatial interactions and responses to a range of rainfall events. The study achieves novelty through developing a new modelling methodology which applies cell parameterisation to represent urban drainage systems and interventions using an existing cellular automata model. The framework is applied at a high level to screen intervention performance using easily accessible data and simplified intervention strategies, it is envisaged that this style of analysis is appropriate for initial catchment assessment to evidence and direct future flood management actions. The research finds intervention scale, distribution and placement to be important factors in determining performance within the context of initial catchment screening using theoretical modelling parameters. Although localised interventions provide benefit at a smaller scale, catchment based strategies are required to substantially reduce estimated annual damage costs across urban areas. The most effective intervention was consistently found to be extensive application of decentralised rainfall capture, which reduced expected annual damage in a UK case study by up to 76%. Intervention distribution and placement are also demonstrated to significantly influence cost effectiveness of strategies, with a wide range of ratios predicted, ranging from £0.10 to £26.0 saved per £1 spent. The most cost effective interventions across the case studies investigated were found to be high volume local drainage interventions targeted in areas of intense flooding. Results demonstrate significant variation in strategy performance depending on rainfall intensity and duration. Analysis across events ranging from 2 to 1000 year return periods found many interventions which performed well during design standard events demonstrate substantial decreases in effectiveness during higher magnitude rainfall. Of particular note are interventions with finite storage capacities, which exhibit considerable decreases in performance at certain threshold levels. The implications of this finding are that designing interventions with resilient performance requires simulation of many rainfall scenarios, and that interventions with resilient properties, such as green infrastructure, do not necessarily achieve resilient performance. The research also identifies that rapid screening frameworks contribute an adaptable and useful tool for stakeholder engagement, intervention design and scenario exploration. Case study application of the framework alongside catchment stakeholders in Melbourne, Australia, facilitated an efficient and collaborative design screening process which benefitted from enhanced communication across a wide range of expertise. The simplified development of intervention strategies provided a clear communication tool which supported the multi-disciplinary investigations required for urban planning in a complex environment. Analysis of many strategy permutations highlighted the advantage of multiple smaller intervention strategies accumulating towards catchment scale benefits, a possibility which is advantaged through stakeholder communication tools, such as this framework. Overall, this thesis demonstrates that reliable and resilient surface water management can be achieved through decentralised catchment scale implementation of interventions, complemented by targeted and cost effective high volume measures. Complexity and variation of outcomes across a range of scenarios indicates the importance of encapsulating the complex permutations of options when evaluating interventions and provides justification for future application of rapid scenario screening frameworks.
Supervisor: Fu, G. ; Butler, D. Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Surface water flooding ; Resilience ; Water management ; Sustainable drainage ; Flooding ; Urban flood management ; Green infrastructure ; Flood modelling